“I NEVER THINK ABOUT ANYBODY WHEN I’m writing, but I thought about her when I was writing this,” says writer-director Steven Baigelman of actress Tuesday Weld. “For me, there is a certain sadness in her performances.” All of which helps explain how Weld, now 53, ended up in the modest role of Keanu Reeves‘s world-weary mother in Feeling Minnesota, Baigelman’s black family comedy, which opened Sept. 13.
World-weariness is something Weld should know about. The New York City-born actress (née Susan Ker Weld) first turned heads as a 3-year-old child model, had a nervous breakdown at 9 and attempted suicide at 12. She was 16 when she played Thalia Menninger, the sexiest of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, a TV role that might have helped typecast her in B-movies like Sex Kittens Go to College (1960). Eventually, Weld hit her stride in Pretty Poison, a 1968 cult classic in which she played a psychotic teen opposite Anthony Perkins.
What followed, however, were often noteworthy performances in offbeat films, punctuated by long hiatuses from the screen. During one, in 1985, she wed her third husband, violinist Pinchas Zukerman, with whom she lives in Santa Fe and Manhattan. But though she hasn’t been seen since 1993’s Falling Down, in which she played Robert Duvall’s frumpy wife, Weld still bedazzled cast and crew on Minnesota’s Twin Cities set. “We were all tripping over ourselves,” admits Baigelman, 36, who didn’t even mind when the actress played hard to get for a costume fitting. “It was so cool,” he says. “She was like an old-time movie star.”